Hi everyone – it’s been a while since I highlighted an indie author on The Glorious Outsiders. I blame that on Netflix and not reading enough lately! I’ve also been attempting two reading challenges so often my reading choices have to try and fit with those. Anyway. I recently had the pleasure of beta reading a murder mystery novel by Val Portelli. Val has contributed two pieces to my blog since I started my lockdown themed features, so I jumped at the chance of being an early reader for her new novel Alderslay. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely read more of Val’s work in the future. I invited Val on to the blog to tell us all about the new novel and she has written this piece detailing the things that can go wrong while preparing a self-published book for launch day. If you would like to know more about Val and her work, her links are all at the end! Enjoy.
‘Alderslay’ and book gremlins.
I had my first book, a romantic novel called ‘Changes’ published several years ago. Shortly afterwards I wrote the first draft for a mystery novel called ‘Murder of Changes’ to tie in with the theme.
Fast forward and ‘M of C’ as it was affectionally known, sat on the back burner while I self-published other books, contributed to anthologies, wrote short stories, learnt about marketing, web sites, blogs, editing, formatting and how to defeat gremlins.
At one stage I was in contact with an editor who read the book and gave me valuable feedback which I incorporated into a revised draft. Entering a competition, I was delighted to win the opportunity to have a cover designed, so M of C was dragged off the back burner, submitted to beta readers, and became new and improved as I incorporated their suggestions.
A year passed and I was assured the cover design was in hand and would be available shortly. Numerous emails later, the MD of the design company eventually admitted the communication between himself and his employee, my designated contact, had proved lacking, and it was the first he had heard of it. My carefully composed details and suggestions had never been seen by the design team.
Was it jinxed? Should I forget it and move onto something else, perhaps a follow up for a series on one of one other books? Stubborn? Moi? Let’s just say a challenge is a challenge. I mentioned it to a friend and fellow author who had been instrumental in my other cover designs, and despite having other priorities she sent her dragons charging to the rescue. With all the to-ing and fro-ing, I’m not sure why she hasn’t blocked me, but the end result was a cover I loved. Thank you P.
I love writing but my marketing skills have to be seen to be believed- e.g. non-existent. Nevertheless, I endeavoured this time to try to do it properly, put the book on pre-order, diarised to set up the paperback to coincide with the eBook release, and bit my nails. Amazon nudged me with reminders of a countdown for when my final Kindle version should be uploaded, but I was happy the latest version was good to go.
A few hours before the cut-off time I received feed-back from a blogger who loved it, but pointed out in Chapter X I mentioned ‘A’ but in Chapter Y it’s ‘B.’ Aaagh. Reading for the umpteenth million time she was right. Dilemma. Should I try to change the minor discrepancy which most readers probably wouldn’t notice, or update a revised version which could result in throwing all the page set-up out of line. Being a perfectionist, I had to put it right, which was the signal for the world and his wife to interrupt with things that had been hanging around for months but needed a response NOW!
There was also the problem of the chicken and egg syndrome. Many readers these days use Kindles, but others only read paperbacks and wanted to know if/when this option would be available. Knowing Amazon suggest paperbacks can often take 72 hours to be approved, and hearing from other authors the virus had affected normal timescales, I set up a formula to include probability ratios, US versus UK time zones, and whether there was an R in the month.
With an eBook release date of the 3rd March, I waited until the early hours of the 1st March, UK time to press go for the paperback, before trying to catch up with some sleep. The following, or rather the same day, I opened my emails to discover the paperback was already live, having taken only 4 hours to approve and had beaten the eBook publication by two days. So much for trying to be a clever-clogs.
Beta readers had been advised of the approximate release date, in the hope they would leave a review. That’s when I realised they would they would be looking for the publication of ‘M of C.’
Just when I thought all was going to plan, a reader advised me there was a slight problem with the layout on one small area of the paperback which had already been released. Should I ignore it or try to correct it before more sales were made. No time like the present and again I burned the midnight oil. The amendment itself took two minutes, but then the long wait watching the wheel go round while Amazon went through the whole routine from scratch before I could access the revised preview.
Thankfully, it was again available within a few hours and I breathed a sigh of relief. A zoom meeting with a friend who lives abroad started with her asking what had happened to the paperback. She had tried to order in exactly that short timescale while it was awaiting the revision. Who said being an author only involved putting words on a page?
Despite all the problems, my first fantastic 5* review had me bouncing, and was quickly followed by others.
Is it worth all the stress and hassle if the actual income works out around a thousandth of the hourly minimum wage? Of course not, but the satisfaction of knowing someone actually read and enjoyed your book drives you on to write the next one. Sincere thanks to buyers, readers, bloggers, reviewers and supporters who have helped to keep me sane. A short break before the characters start calling, then here we go again!
It’s been a funny old week. A funny few weeks, maybe even months. Thanks perhaps to the stage of life I have now reached, my emotions are up and down like a yo-yo, with my moods springing from one extreme to the other on a daily basis. Not what I’m talking about today obviously, but, wow, I exhaust myself. Truly.
So, where one minute I am excited beyond belief that I have released yet another book, the next I am down about it for a multitude of reasons. I am writing this on publication day and my mood has dipped low. A few hours ago I was as high as a kite. A few days ago this would have had a very different tone to it.
But I digress…this is really just a very quick post to let you lovely people know that my new YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson is now live. The paperback will follow shortly. Hopefully, so will some reviews!
I would have liked to have done a lot more in the run up to this release, but my moods have really interfered with the whole process. Also, my laptop decided to die, come alive again, die again, and come alive again. I think it’s a bit like me at the moment! Raring to go one moment, completely frazzled the next. A new one is on the cards, but in the meantime I may be slightly hampered with internet type stuff! Tonight it is working just fine! Yesterday, not a peep.
Anyway, the link is below if you fancy getting your teeth into a really gritty YA novel about an unsolved murder, a neighbourhood feud and a teenager singing sensation! The first in a trilogy. See you soon xxx
Release day is fast approaching! I am just putting the final touches to everything and double checking everything is okay before I set up the Amazon pre-order link. I hope to have that done in the next few days.
But to keep you entertained, I hope you enjoy this sample chapter from the novel!
Bill was lying to both Pete and
Summer when he said he knew what he was going to sing on Saturday. He didn’t
know, and it was driving him insane. It wasn’t as easy as people imagined. He
couldn’t just get up there and sing what he wanted to sing. There was so much
more to it than that. There was the audience for one thing. They came expecting
entertainment. They didn’t want to be subjected to anything too new, too
obscure or too noisy. More than anything, he knew they wanted something to sing
He spent the rest of the week trying
to figure it out. He didn’t want to get on the stage and sing karaoke songs
like all the others. He wanted to sing. He wanted to perform.
Last time he had been showing off.
He’d picked a song from the machine a week in advance, probably the hardest one
on there. It was never about emulating the original version. He just listened
to the lyrics and thought about what they meant to him. He’d spent hours like
that, lying on his bed with the music in his ears and his eyes closed.
He’d mouthed it in silence to
begin with, getting to grips with the feel of the words in his mouth. Bill
smiled about it now, as he paced his room, picking up records and putting them
down again, running through his playlists again and again, thumbing through
Spotify and YouTube. What did he want to sing? What did he want to say?
Dog Days Are Over, by Florence and
The Machine. He’d picked it because it was shouty and loud. Because he could
lose himself in it. Because he liked the words and he thought about Summer when
he sang it, and he didn’t even know why, except you had to think about
But now? What now?
That had been before. Dog Days Are Over. He’d felt like that…like
he could forget about his mother and the horrible aching betrayal of it all,
and he could sing anyway. He didn’t sound like her. He didn’t sing or move like
her either. He could just be himself and still blow their minds. He could walk
around this cesspit with his head held high.
This was after. Now he had to pick a song knowing that the entire
estate knew a gang of masked youths had kicked the shit out of him. He had to
pick a song after that? And sing it in front of all of them? Including
McDonnal? No, it wasn’t easy.
Bill thought about drink warming
his belly, fingers of comfort snaking through his veins, bringing him up tall,
and what would he sing when he felt like that? Something old and warm and
comfortable. He could sing one of his mum’s favourite songs. His voice smooth
and silky yet strong and growling when he needed it to be. Something by The
Foundations or The Four Tops. The audience would like that. Everyone knew those
old soul songs.
He could sing something new he was
getting into, but he didn’t know how that would go down. He was into some dark
stuff lately which wouldn’t suit the community centre atmosphere. People went
there for a good time, or for some company, some support. They went there for
hope. He couldn’t take that away from them for the sake of showing off.
Then there was his bloody dad.
They’d always clashed, Bill thought,
as he opened the window and felt the cold night air on his cheeks. People said
they were too similar; short tempered and impatient, but Bill didn’t buy that.
They were nothing alike. He liked to be left alone, whereas Andy craved
company. Bill liked to keep his thoughts to himself, but his father liked the
sound of his own voice too much. Like now. Bill could hear him downstairs, his
voice rising and falling, laughter, punctuated by angry exclamations. He could
have been arguing with someone or shouting at the TV or just talking to
himself. He could never be still or silent.
His dad was one of those short,
angry men, he mused, gazing out of the half open window. He had a chip on his
shoulder and a point to prove. He was so annoying most of the time, so over the
top, especially lately with all the overprotective crap. He was embarrassing.
But those bastards had made him
Bill didn’t think he would ever
forget it. His father leaning over him, touching his hair with tears on his
cheeks. It was the first time he had considered what his dad had been through.
Until that moment Bill had only viewed the attack through his own eyes. He had
not stopped to think about how his father must have felt that night.
And it pissed him off.
Maybe blood was thicker than water
after all. Maybe he owed him a good night. He leaned out of the window, pushing
it further open. A stroll in the dark was what he needed. A chance to think
about it. Something would come to him then. The Clash, maybe. The Buzzcocks.
His dad loved all that stuff. A grin pulled at his lips as he pictured himself
getting up on the stage to sing something by The Sex Pistols. Then there was
Tom Waits. Andy had always been a fan.
Something pulled at his mind then.
Guitar intro. Low and dark and thrumming, giving the suggestion that something
was about to happen. The drums building up with the guitars. And then when it
kicked in it was gentler and sadder than expected. He could have jumped up and
down in excitement when it finally came to him. He recalled the first verse,
something about flirting with death and not caring about it. And it all fell
into place, the rest of the words, and the music that spiralled between the two short
choruses. It would be blinding. It was exactly what he wanted to say.
He decided to sneak out anyway. He
could find it on his phone and wander around having a quiet sing. Bill turned
at the exact second the brick came flying towards his head. He felt it spin
past his cheekbone and ducked away instinctively covering his head with his
arms. It rolled across the bedroom floor and sat there ominously. He rushed to
the window, leaned out and looked around.
‘That all you got?’ he roared
without thinking. ‘Come on then!’
He regretted his outburst when his
father came pounding up the stairs and into his room. Perhaps Bill could have
made up an excuse, if Andy had not stubbed his toe on the brick lying in the
middle of the carpet.
‘What the bleeding-hell?’
Bill pulled the window shut and
whipped the curtains together. He faced his father and watched him pick up the
brick and turn it over in his hands. He held it out to Bill, his eyes bright
‘This just come through the
window?’ Bill paused, and his father reddened. ‘Eh? Did it?’
‘Looks like it, doesn’t it?’ he
responded sulkily, pushing past him.
Andy rushed to the window where he
yanked back the curtains and stared out. ‘Just like that?’
‘Right, that’s it then,’ Andy
stormed from the room, taking the brick with him. ‘I’m calling Collins over.’
Bill followed him from the room.
‘Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the point? I didn’t see anyone!’
Andy stopped and faced him on the
stairs. ‘That’s all I ever bloody hear from you! I didn’t see anything, I
didn’t see anyone! What are you, bloody blind?’
Andy trotted down the rest of the
stairs and picked up the phone. He pointed the brick at his son. ‘I’m not
sitting here and taking that!’ he told him. ‘This is our home!’
Bill made a noise of disgust and
walked through to the kitchen. ‘Go on then!’ he yelled back over his shoulder.
‘You’re wasting your time!’
Bill stalked around the kitchen,
shaking his head and feeling penned in. Minutes later his father stormed into
the kitchen and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, legs spread.
‘He’s coming over. You’re gonna sit
in here and talk to him.’
Bill threw up his hands. ‘About
‘About everything!’ Andy growled
in return. ‘Now, I’m not bloody stupid, Billy-boy. I wasn’t born yesterday! I know
there’s something you’re not telling me about all of this. Why is someone
Bill slumped into a chair, folded
his arms and shook his head. ‘How do you even know the same person threw the
brick? Probably just kids mucking about. You’re gonna look a right dick when Collins
‘You’re gonna look like a dick when
whatever you’re hiding catches up with you!’
‘I’m not stupid,’ Andy warned him
again, his breathing finally slowing down. ‘You’re seriously expecting me to
believe you was just minding your own business one night, and a whole gang
decided to target you? No. There’s more, and I know it. Sit there! And don’t even think
about moving a muscle until Collins gets here!’
Andy spun around and marched back
into the lounge, where Bill heard him collapse onto the sofa and swear at the
dog. Bill rested his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands.
Suddenly Saturday night seemed a very long way off. He exhaled frustration
through his fingers, then dropped his hands and sat back in the chair. A brief
glance at the door, considering escape, but Andy must have been a mind reader
‘Don’t even think about it,
Billy-boy,’ his voice came from the other room. ‘I’m a lot faster than you
PC Collins knocked on the door
twenty minutes later. He came through to the kitchen, his hat in his hands and
his cheeks flushed red from the cold night air.
‘Thanks Andy,’ Bill heard him
saying, before he glanced at Bill, and then gestured to a chair. ‘Mind if I sit
Bill sighed, slumping forward
again. ‘Look, he’s totally wasting your time. It was just a stupid brick! Could
have been anyone!’
Collins flipped open his notebook
and started writing. ‘Well,’ he said, sounding weary. ‘The thing is, you might
be right, but we have to consider what’s already gone on, don’t we? Now
obviously in the eyes of the law, a brick is not much to go on and no damage
was done, but we can’t help connect the dots to other things, eh?’
Bill breathed out and in again,
willing his frustration to lay low. ‘Connecting dots is just useless though,’
he tried to point out. ‘That won’t stand up in a court of law, will it?’
‘No, course not, but that’s not
the point right now.’
‘What is then?’
‘The point is keeping an eye on
the situation,’ Collins explained calmly. ‘Making sure things don’t escalate.
Your father did the right thing calling me, and he also did the right thing
when he called us about the video. Sometimes lots of small parts add up to the
whole, you see?’
Bill shook his head and glowered.
Collins laughed softly. ‘Well, you
will. Okay, so you were in your room? At the window? The window was open?’
‘Yes,’ he growled. ‘Then I turned
away and the brick came through. And no, I didn’t see or hear anything or
‘Okay,’ sighed Collins. ‘And
you’ve not had any altercations with anyone in the last few days?’
Bill thought briefly about
punching Logan in the community centre. ‘No.’
‘Look, can I ask you something?’
Collins lowered his notebook. ‘Of
Bill scratched his head, then
pushed his hair back from his face and bit his lip. ‘Just saying…I mean, if I
thought I knew who attacked me, but I couldn’t prove it? That still
wouldn’t help me, would it?’
Collins closed the notebook,
folded his hands on the table top and looked at Bill very seriously. ‘If you
have any idea who attacked you, Bill, you need to tell me now.’
‘But what I’m saying is, it won’t help,
will it? I can’t prove anything.’
‘Well, let’s say you thought you
had an idea, it would depend on why.
So, let’s say, hypothetically speaking that you did have an idea? Why that person?’
Bill shrugged. ‘Instinct.’
Collins nodded. ‘Nothing else? No
recognition? Of shape or form or voice? Stature?’
Bill shook his head. ‘Nothing
obvious. Nothing that can be proven in court. That’s what I’m getting at. You
need actual proof, don’t you?’
Collins nodded slowly. ‘Yes, you
do. But imagine if I had a name? Then depending on who that might be, and what
their reputation and record showed up, I might be able to get a warrant to
search their home. You see? I might be able to question them, and you know,
sometimes that’s all you need, because they don’t have an alibi for that night,
or they’ve got some incriminating evidence in their home.’
Bill smiled softly. ‘No one would
be that stupid.’
‘You’d be surprised, Bill.’
Bill shook his head. If there had
been any evidence, it would have been destroyed that night. And the gang would
provide alibis for each other.
‘There were four of them, you
say,’ Collins said to him then. Bill nodded. ‘A chain is only as strong as its
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means not all of those four
will be as strong as the others. Someone will crack.’
‘They might,’ Bill
corrected him. ‘That’s what I’m saying. Might and maybe are no good for me, are
they? You can’t promise me anything.’
‘I can protect you.’
Bill laughed out loud. ‘No, you
can’t. No one can do that for anyone. Can I ask you something else?’
Collins slipped his notebook into
the breast pocket of his uniform. ‘Go for it.’
‘Has there been any progress on
the Lewis Matthews murder?’
‘Well, I’m not obviously meant to
discuss that case with anyone.’
‘I’m not just anyone. It might
affect me. Have they got any idea who it was? Or why?’
‘Why is the biggest
problem,’ Collins sighed, getting up from the chair. ‘Lewis was a nice kid.
Worked hard at school and kept himself to himself.’
‘So, why’d someone stab him then?’
Collins shrugged. ‘The only angle
we’ve got to go on is his father’s colourful background, but that’s about all I
can say about it to you right now, okay?’
Bill nodded, knowing the officer
had already said more than he was supposed to. It was enough anyway, he
reasoned. Enough for Summer.
Release day for my next book A Song For Bill Robinson is creeping ever closer. I am not ready, not at all, but as I mentioned in my last post, I have a blog tour organised this time, so I do feel like there is less pressure on me to promote! I need to check my launch plan though and see what else I can achieve between now and then. All in all, I am just trying not to get stressed about it. My work life has increased a fair bit lately, with my company getting busier and in more demand, and this is wonderful. But it has meant less time for writing and promoting my own books. I think I have totally fallen out of the promo habit!! Eek, need to get back into that quick sharp.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the front cover!!
So, this blog is really all about the thoughts and feelings that dominate when approaching the launch of a new novel. A Song For Bill Robinson will be my tenth release, which is a lovely round number and something I am incredibly proud of. But like all creative types, I have my moments of self-doubt and panic. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings rushing around in my head as launch day approaches!
The book is not ready! I think this is one of the biggest thoughts and most dominant fears. Despite spending three years writing and revising and editing this book, which is about what I spend on all of my novels, I still wonder if it could be better? If I left it a year and read it again, would I change things? Cut more words? I don’t think this thought ever really goes away and I often have the urge to go back over my other novels and double check them all. Again.
I’ve left promo too late! Another panicky thought and fear. My promo for releasing a novel has been a bit different with each one, and looking back, it really all depends on what’s going on in my life. It comes down to time and energy I guess. I wrote a very detailed launch plan for this one, but I think it was a bit ambitious considering how busy life is at the moment! I have to remember that promoting a book never ends. If you’re lacking around launch day, the game is not over. You can keep promoting it forever.
There might still be typos! Another fear that never goes. At the moment I have a very kind and wonderful reader going over it again for me before I hit publish, and so far I’m pleased to report they have not found any typos or spelling mistakes, just a few misplaced commas and some opportunities for cutting the word count down. I hate the thought of readers finding typos, even though I understand how hard it is to weed them all out.
No one will buy it! Ahh, the most common fear and not without good reason. As an indie author doing it all alone without much money to help with promo, I do struggle for sales, though I have never had a month without a sale. The most common fear a writer has with a book launch is that the readers will hate the book. I really don’t know how people will feel about this one and I won’t know until that first review comes in. It’s a scary feeling!
Now there’s room in my head for more books… Well, to be honest, as soon as a rough first draft of a book is done, that story gets shuffled to the side of my brain and the next one in line barges in. But it feels even better when the book is finally released, because it’s over, you’ve done it, you can let it go and move onto the next one. That’s a really good feeling and a great relief.
It’s a load of rubbish… What if all the reviews are critical? Okay you know you are going to get some people that love it and some that just like it and some that don’t get it, or whatever. That’s expected. But what if all the reviews are bad? What if I’ve really mucked it up this time? What if it makes no sense, is slow or boring or unrealistic? Beta readers have told me otherwise, but what if they’re biased or wrong??
And if I’m really honest, I’m so tired right now, my most dominant thought is; I can’t be arsed, why can’t someone else do all this for me? I’m sure that will change though. If my other book launches are anything to go by, I normally end up really enjoying it. It is an accomplishment and with this particular book, I’m really pleased it finally escaped that dusty old suitcase and the unfinished book I wrote as a 16 year-old is something bigger, brighter and better than I had attempted back then. Well done, teenage me for putting the wheels in motion and not throwing it away! And well done forty-plus me, for finally getting it done. I’m happy with that.